UK: Councils banned from snooping on your sex life

Daily Mail
02.09.2011
By James Chapman

Town hall ‘sex snoopers’ will today be banned from  bombarding people with intrusive questions about their private lives.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said he was appalled that residents seeking to access basic services were being grilled about their sex lives, disabilities, religion, ethnicity and employment.

He said they should not have to reveal detailed personal information to get their bins emptied or take out a library book.

In many circumstances, councils have been required to undertake intrusive ‘lifestyle and diversity’ surveys on local residents’ sexual orientation, transgender status, religion and other details.

Questionnaires have even been sent out after people contact a council with a complaint or for advice.

Mr Pickles said such surveys of those living in council housing had been demanded by the Audit Commission, the local government spending watchdog, which is being scrapped by the Coalition.

The body also insisted that councils undertake ‘equality mapping’ of their residents. Those which refused to do this were marked down in inspections.

Mr Pickles said these requirements would now be scrapped, as would requirements to ‘monitor’ the sexual orientation of local residents.

Typically, questions include whether householders are bisexual, gay, lesbian or straight, whether they have a long-term illness or disability and how this affects them, and what their  ethnicity is.

Other sections ask for information on employment status and age.

In Islington, north London, residents who want to join the municipal library have been asked to fill out forms asking whether they have HIV or cancer, what their sexual orientation is, and if they have had a sex change, are a gipsy or suffer from schizophrenia.

A Daily Mail survey of 30 local authorities found that a third routinely gathered diversity information from residents.

Grandmother Richenda Legge was sent an equality monitoring form by in North Norfolk council about her sexual orientation when she complained about her bin collections.

The practice fuels the controversial multi-million pound equality and diversity industry in local government, where hundreds of officials are employed on generous salaries and gold-plated pension schemes.

A survey of councils by the Mail found that 85 per cent of those that responded send out the forms, despite the fact they replicate much of the information gathered in this year’s census.

They are despatched by councils under a requirement to ‘promote and ensure’ diversity under the Equality Act 2010, which was brought in by the last Labour government.

But there is considerable confusion over whether the gathering of such information is a legal requirement.

Full article

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